Increasingly, organizations tackling society’s most pressing problems are run by executives trained in business schools, where they receive no education related to social challenges, social dynamics or the social sector, generally. In response, GreenHouse helped design, develop and launch the nation’s first doctorate in management, leadership and social innovation – at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.
The professional doctorate requires students to complete coursework in social and public sector leadership, social sector finance, public discourse, program design and evaluation and social innovation – predicated on GreenHouse’s original work in this area. Students are required to substantively address one of 12 grand challenges facing society, ranging from the human cost of climate change to the impact of stigma.
In 2014, GreenHouse was enlisted to be the first-ever Innovator in Residence at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work – the first-ever in a school of social work, the first ever in the social sciences and one of only a handful in any field in the U.S.
Here’s why we agreed: society desperately needs social workers. More precisely, society needs the kind of things social workers know about social context and human systems applied more broadly and more assertively.
The challenge was that social workers were ill-prepared to play that larger role. Overcoming the challenge required a culture change — in the field and in its professional education.
So far, so good. Recruited for this role by Dean Marilyn Flynn, our partnership with the school has been highly productive. Together, we have developed and launched the first-ever doctorate in social innovation, the first graduate program in nursing within a school of social work, and an award-winning masters fellowship in social innovation.
In 1919, when Jane Addams won the Nobel Peace Prize, social good was a relatively narrow domain – populated largely by progressive clergy and women like Jane, who were the forerunners of the modern field of social work. Today, nearly a century later, social good has exploded into virtually sector, industry and profession.
We’re out to determine where it’s going and how best to train professionals to lead it. In partnership with the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, we are engaging experts from around the world – in domains as diverse as technology, design and international movement-building – and connecting them to educators, who will grow the next generation of social good leaders.
This project is part of our efforts as Innovator in Residence, which includes development of a Master’s fellowship in social innovation and the nation’s first doctorate in social innovation – both at USC.
Setting the agenda for an entire profession requires audacity – both in vision and strategic objectives. That’s what faced the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, which unveiled its 12 grand challenges for the discipline of social work.
As Innovator in Residence at the largest school of social work in the world, our role was to help the Academy aim beyond social work’s conventional role. “Scientists and policymakers want to know how their decision will impact the world, but they have inadequate tools for figuring that out,” we said. “Professors of social work could be the pre-eminent intellectual brokers between academic research and social impact.”
GreenHouse has also assisted efforts to address some of the 12 grand challenges, including homelessness and stigma.
Innovation is hard work, particularly inside organizations that aren’t equipped to have disruptive ideas or to bring them to life. But that work gets even harder when the instigator has no organizational authority.
That’s why we developed the COBI Fellows Program, a pilot at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work to prepare graduate students to lead innovation on day one of their careers.
In its first year, the program won the SAGE/CSWE Award for Innovative Teaching in Social Work Education. From the award announcement: The program “provides a framework for infusing innovative practices in organizations, and engages participants in an interactive experience designed to drive change in social service organizations.”
Dr. Marilyn Flynn is a leader – if not the leader – in social work education. Flynn is dean of the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, the largest such institution in the world, and a central figure in many of the field’s most influential organizations, including the Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, the St. Louis Group, and the Network for Social Work Management.
Dr. Flynn said of us, “GreenHouse’s expertise is that of the most unusual sort and lies in their ability to engage people at the highest possible level in analysis of their concerns and their dreams for the improvement in the human condition.”
We have worked closely with Dr. Flynn since our appointment as Innovator in Residence and in development of multiple initiatives, including the nation’s first-ever doctorate in social innovation and the first graduate nursing program oriented to the social determinants of health.
It’s no secret that health care providers need a far better understanding of social factors – like cultural differences, poverty and stigma – just to do their jobs. But to date, these essential factors have been an afterthought in their professional education.
That’s why we worked with the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work to develop and launch the first graduate program in nursing oriented toward these factors and the kind of inter-professional collaboration necessary to effectively address them.
The program was shaped by findings in Health Plus Social, a publication we developed to explore the interplay of social determinants and professional education. Dean Marilyn Flynn wrote this in the foreword: “Conditions of poverty, injustice, and broken human relationships provide the etiology for gunshot wounds, delayed development, late-stage diagnosis, and lack of access to care. … Our experts here note that nursing may have more potential than other health professions in bringing power and authority to the idea of social determinants and incorporating this content into training and professional perspectives.”
As Innovator in Residence, we were part of the new graduate nursing program from its inception through the admission of the first cohort of students in August 2016. Our work continues in exploring how these social factors can inform a new research agenda for nursing science and new forms of doctoral education.
There is now widespread agreement that social determinants – factors like race, class and zip code – have greater influence on our health than does our biology. But the health care system has been slow to evolve, leaving providers ill-equipped to help patients and others in need.
GreenHouse has jumped into the void, developing the publication Health Plus Social to explore social determinants and the implications for the training of health care professionals. The publication is part of our efforts as Innovator in Residence to give shape to the new graduate nursing program at the University of Southern California, the first such program housed in a school of social work.
“The basic reason for the neglect of social determinants in health care is that the system is primarily set up to treat acute, biomedical problems,” wrote the report’s editor, Andrew Benedict-Nelson. “Substantial work remains if we hope to translate our understanding of social determinants into practical, specific protocols for care on the individual or community level.”
Challenges like this are now being tackled in inter-professional collaborations, such as one GreenHouse helped launch in summer 2016.